Net closes in on ex-minister

A search of the Athens office of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who has been in custody since mid-April pending trial for money laundering, has turned up a range of evidence linking him to offshore firms that he claims to have no involvement with but which have been connected to suspicious property transfers he is alleged to have used to conceal kickbacks from defense deals.

Stacking the case against him are three e-mails allegedly exchanged between his first cousin Nikos Zigras, who is also in custody on money-laundering charges, and a Swiss legal office between June and August 2010. That office is said to have handled the accounts of the firm Drumilan, which has been implicated in the procurement of TOR M1 missiles from which the ex-minister secured kickbacks, according to prosecutors.

The search also turned up copies of bank transfers to the offshore firm Bluebell, which prosecutors have linked to Tsochatzopoulos, as well as architect plans for several properties whose construction is said to have been overseen by Torcaso, another offshore firm linked to the former minister.

Tsochatzopoulos?s appointments diary is also revealing, according to sources who report that it contains entries with the names of several businessmen including Michalis Christoforakos, the former CEO of Siemens Hellas and a key suspect in the cash-for-contracts scandal involving the firm.

Equally revealing is a document which indicates that Tsochatzopoulos had long been expecting the ax to fall and had been keen to cover himself but also those he had worked with. The document highlights the need for ?creative support? to be offered to ?the former defense minister A.T.? as well as ?12 to 13 associates.? Another extract suggests that the author might be the ex-minister himself. ?Those who need to be informed should be before the magistrate is briefed. The magistrate?s investigation will end with my testimony,? the document reads, adding that the charge file would then be forwarded to a judicial council ?before which we will all give the great and final battle, seeking our exoneration and vindication.?